The World Health Organization recently posted a news release stating that:
the <World> Health Assembly produced a public health breakthrough by providing a platform for removing barriers and using innovative methods to encourage research, development and access to medicines for the common diseases of the developing world.
The public health, innovation and intellectual property strategy endorsed by the Health Assembly is designed to promote new approaches to pharmaceutical research and development (R&D), and to enhance access to medicines. It is also designed to provide a medium-term framework for enhancing and making sustainable essential R&D relevant to diseases impacting developing countries.
According to the WHO’s report on the IGWG, Member States agreed to encourage the application and management of intellectual property in a way that maximizes health-related innovation and access. Other components of the strategy, endorsed by the Member States include:
- An assessment of health needs in developing countries and identification of research and development priorities;
- Promotion of research and development on diseases which substantially or overwhelmingly affect people in developing countries, and also diseases which affect rich and poor countries with large numbers of vulnerable populations in both;
- Exploration and implementation, where appropriate, of possible incentive schemes for research and development;
- Improvement of research and development capacity in developing countries;
- Improvement, promotion and acceleration of technology transfer;
- Improvement of access to all health commodities by effectively overcoming barriers to access; and
- Sustainable financing for R&D in developing countries.
The short-term follow-up actions from the World Health Assembly are for the WHO to:
- Prepare a quick start programme with adequate budget provision and begin immediately to implement the elements of the global strategy that fall under its responsibility;
- Finalize the outstanding components of the plan of action and estimate the cost implications of the plan; and
- Establish an expert working group to examine current financing and coordination of research and development, as well as proposals for new and innovative sources of funding to stimulate research and development.
What does this outcome mean for patients around the world?
At this point, the answer to that question remains unclear as the discussion on financing and strategic implementation will continue over the next year at least. Hopefully, the WHO will engage patients in these discussions.